April 22, 2010
Singing the depleted uranium blues
In a spasm of civic-mindedness brought on by the current U.S. Congressional attitude of wanting to tell us how many babies we can have and what car we are to drive, I decided to attend a public information meeting sponsored by our county commissioners. That and they had free cookies.
This meeting was organized to explain and calm our fears about that eerie green glow we see reflected off the clouds out in the west desert on moonless nights. These super-hero-producing emanations originate from a little cluster of buildings about two miles east of Nowhere called Clive.
Apparently Clive is the dumping ground for the leftover stuff we get when making nuclear bombs and Chinese mustard sauce. This material is called “depleted uranium” or DU and, just like Barbra Streisand, becomes nastier and nastier the older it gets. Well, we gotta put this junk somewhere, and someone years ago (probably the same guy who was also in charge of finding a place to store chemical weapons) looked for a big empty spot on the U.S. map, somehow missing all of Nevada, and picked Tooele County.
In the spirit of naming things exactly what they ain’t, a company called “EnviroCare” which later morphed into “EnergySolutions” got the contract to haul this stuff to our lovely salt flats. Well, at least they’re lovely to me, if for nothing else, for being unique. Not so for my wife. I never thought it possible for someone to actually “hate” a landscape. Yeah, I wouldn’t put the city dump on a post card, but I can’t imagine actually despising to see it; smell it maybe, but not seeing it. The one time we drove through the salt flats my wife stared out the window with nothing but shock and utter disgust on her face. She later said she never wanted to go through that representation of hell on earth again. So, even though “EnviroCare” probably didn’t give one whit about the environment, I can’t see how they could improve on hell; and if they could, we would have much more to worry about than uranium radiation.
Since there is nowhere else to go but up for the salt flats anyway, and to assuage our fears of Satan building a summer retreat there, our county commissioners picked up a big platter of cookies at Macey’s and called this meeting. They invited three experts on depleted uranium, two of which were retired scientists so old they even remembered the day uranium was formed during the earth’s cooling process. These guys wowed us with statistics, studies, graphs and charts showing beyond all doubt that DU is so healthy you should sprinkle it on your oatmeal in the morning.
“In fact,” one of them said, “the cookies you are eating right now were made from DU flour.”
(Sounds of choking and spewing.)
You see, we’re all a little schismatic when it comes to DU. Our heads could tell us there is no more reason to fear this stuff, but then we wonder why the county collects “mitigation fees” for warehousing “harmless” dirt.
I’m all for running a profitable business hauling disgusting and dangerous waste products — I greatly admire the paper shredding company that keeps Washington from sinking into the Potomac River — but why stash the stuff here? There is a vast wasteland that is already doing a great job of delaying Armageddon by keeping Utah and California apart. It’s called Nevada. They even have a road through the center of this filler state officially titled the “Extraterrestrial Highway” because that is where space aliens can abduct human specimens without being seen.
Even if depleted uranium is so wonderful you should line your baby’s crib with it (to give him X-ray vision), why not just keep on driving past Clive into the exact center of the Great Basin. The Elko city dump needs the revenue anyway and we can throw in 254 members of Congress while we’re at it.
John Hamilton is the creative director for Transcript-Bulletin Publishing.